The Visions of Zechariah – Part 1

    Zechariah 1: 7 – 2:13 

Horses and Riders (1:7-17) 

Verses seven and eight – “On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, as follows: I saw at night, and behold a man riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel and white horses behind him.” 

The man on the red horse is no mere man or angel. He is the same man Joshua saw “standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand.” The man Joshua asked, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” and the man answered, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord” (Joshua 5:13-14). He is the One whose voice Moses heard in the burning bush (Exodus 3:4). He is the pre-incarnated Christ. He appears in the vision in the form of a man because of his office as an intercessor and advocate for His people. 

Mounted on a red horse signifies his majesty and glory as a king or general of an army and his readiness, willingness, and ability to defend his people and deliver them from the hands of their enemies. Standing in the myrtle tree grove tells us he is among his people in their present situation. He wants to defend them and deliver them from their present situation if they will call on him. 

In this man, we see the willingness of Christ to come to earth to deliver all humanity from the hand of their enemy and the enemy of the Lord. He willingly left the throne of God, set aside his royal robes, took the form of a man and assumed the human nature. He willingly suffered, bled and died on a Roman cross. He paid the penalty demanded for the redemption of humanity, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, took his place on God’s throne and is our intercessor and advocate. One day he will return to earth and establish his kingdom on earth and rule over all nations. He will return to earth mounted on a white horse with a sword in his hand. He will defeat the enemies of God and his people. He will bring all evil, wickedness, violence, and suffering to an end. 

There are times in this life when the temptations are strong and faith weak. It seems like God has turned His face away from us, Christ has deserted us and the Holy Spirit has removed His influences from the world. The life and power of the church seems to be fading. It is in these times we need to see what Zechariah saw in the myrtle tree grove, a man mounted of a red horse in the midst of His people and ready to defend His people.  

Zechariah asked: 

Verse nine and ten – “My lord what are these? And the angel who was speaking with me said to me, I will show you what these are. And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said, ‘These are those whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’” 

The man who is standing among the myrtle trees answered Zechariah’s question instead of the angel with Zechariah. The horses “are those whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.” In the Book of Job we are told Satan “walks to and fro in the earth,” implying restless activity, seeking ways to harm the people of God (Job 1:7). The Lord sends angels to “walk to and fro” countering the activity of Satan and defending God’s people (Psalm 34:7; 91:11; 103:20, 21). 

The patrolling angels report: 

Verse eleven – “We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet.” 

The enemies of God’s people are prospering and self-confidently secure while the people of God are depressed and downtrodden. The world was free from wars. In Jerusalem and Judah, the enemies of God’s people were hindering the restoration of the temple. The appointed time of punishment fulfilled, it is time for the Lord to intervene in the affairs of His people. 

The man in the myrtle tree grove is not only among the people he is their intercessor. He asks: 

Verse twelve – “O Lord of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?” 

Prior to the completion of the appointed time of punishment was not the time to intercede for Israel and the people. The fulfillment of the appointed time of punishment is the proper time to intercede. 

Zechariah did not record the answer of the prayer. It is possible, he did not hear the answer or under the direction of the Holy Spirit, he did not record the answer. Before entering the Promised Land Moses told the Israelites, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29). This verse sets the limits and purpose of God’s revelation. Some things the Lord chooses to keep to Himself. The answer to the question the angel of the Lord asked might be something that the Lord did not want revealed. 

Verse thirteen – “The Lord answered the angel who was speaking with me with gracious words, comforting words.” 

In this verse, the Lord answered the angel who was speaking to Zechariah and the angel told Zechariah: 

Verse fourteen – “Proclaim, saying, ’Thus says the Lord of hosts, I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.” 

The Lord of host’s jealousy is like a husband’s jealousy for his wife who others have wronged and abused, so is the Lord’s jealously for Judah and Jerusalem the Gentiles have abused. Because they have abused His people the Lord is, “very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry they furthered the disaster” (v. 15). The Lord’s anger with His people is temporary and for their chastening. His anger with the Gentiles who have injured His people is final and fatal (Jeremiah 30:11).

The Gentile nations were the Lord’s instruments for chastening His people. However, they went beyond what was necessary. They sought the utter extinction of Judah and Jerusalem to gratify their own ambitions and revenge (Isaiah 47:6; Ezekiel 25:3, 6). The Lord will “return to Jerusalem with compassion” and His “house will be built in it.” In anger the Lord had withdrawn from Jerusalem (Hosea 5:15). The Lord made it very clear He will not share the city He loves and the land He has set aside for Himself. He will do what is best for His people. He will pour out His wrath upon those who abuse His people. The Lord will dwell in His house, the Temple. The cities of Judah will be filled to overflow with all the blessings of grace and good tidings, the people blessed and comforted. 

Horns and Craftsmen (1:18-21) 

In a vision following the vision of the horses and riders, Zechariah saw four horns: 

Verse eighteen – “Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, there were four horns.” 

Because animals used the horn as a weapon, it came to symbolize power and pride. The false prophet Zedekiah, in Ahab’s reign made horns of iron to portray how Ahab was going to defeat the Syrians (1 Kings 22:11). The psalmist in his warning to the wicked said “the God of Jacob” will cut off all the horns of the wicked but the horns of the righteous “shall be exalted” (Psalm 75:10). David spoke of God as the horn, or strength, of his salvation (2nd Samuel 22:3; Psalm 18:2). 

The horns Zechariah saw represent four kingdoms or kings “which have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem” (v.19). 

There are scholars who claim the four horns represent all the enemies of Israel that were round about them, such as the Syrians, Assyrians, and Babylonians on the north; the Ammonites and Moabites on the east; the Edomites and Egyptians on the south; and the Philistines on the west. A second opinion is the horns represent four kings, Shalmaneser, Nebuchadnezzar, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes the first, also called Longimanus. A third opinion is, the four horns represent Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and Medo-Persia. A fourth opinion is the horns represent the demonic hosts of Satan, always assembled for moral combat, who seek to influence the affairs of nations. There is an example of intervening in humans affairs by the demonic hosts of Satan in Daniel chapter ten. 

Following the vision of the four horns, Zechariah saw four craftsmen: 

Verse twenty – “Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen.” 

Zechariah asked the angel who was speaking to him: 

Verse twenty-one – “What are these coming to do? And he said, ‘these are the horns which have scattered Judah so that no man lifts up his head; but these craftsmen have come to terrify them, to throw down the horns of the nations who has lifted up their horns against the land of Judah in order to scatter it.” 

These craftsmen have come to put terror into the kings and kingdoms, to destroy and take their power away from them. Who are they? Again, there are several opinions. Some scholars believe the four craftsmen are David, Ephraim, Elijah, and the priest of righteousness. Others believe they are angels used in the destruction of the enemies of God’s people or preventing them from doing harmful things to God’s people. They stir-up the spirits of kings and princes to support God’s people as they did the spirit of Cyrus.  

Surveyor (2:1-13)      

In his next vision, chapter 2:1-13, Zechariah saw a man with a measuring line. Zechariah asks the man where he was going. He said he was going to measure Jerusalem in its present state that it might be known what was necessary for the rebuilding of the wall and by comparing its dimensions with the vast numbers that should inhabit it, what additions were necessary for the receiving and containing the multitudes that will come to Jerusalem (Isaiah 60:4). 

The angel who was speaking with Zechariah was going out, and another angel was coming out to meet him, and said to him, “Run, speak to that young man, saying, Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the multitude of men and cattle within it.” The purpose of this meeting between the two angels is to explain the meaning of the measuring of Jerusalem so that it would not cause any speculations. The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall increase, and multiply so that it shall extend itself far beyond the present dimensions. This increase of the numbers of a people is a fruit of the Lord’s blessing on them and an earnest of further blessings (Psalm 107:38). It will be as safe and great as the presence of the Lord can make it. 

The purpose of the walls of a city is to defend it. They also keep the inhabitants confined within the boundaries of the walls. However, Jerusalem will not be a walled city. Yet it shall be as safe as if it had the strongest walls.  

When Zechariah saw this vision, Jerusalem had no walls about it. She lay naked and exposed. When she had walls her enemies not only broke through them, but also broke them down, but now the Lord will be to her a wall of fire that cannot be broken through, nor scaled, nor undermined, nor the foundations of it neither undermined nor approached, without danger to the assailants. Some think it alludes to shepherds that made fires about their flocks, or travelers that made fires about their tents in desert places, to frighten wild beasts from them. The Lord will do much more. He will build a hedge around Jerusalem as He did Job (Job1:10). He will not only build a hedge around Jerusalem, He will be as the mountains round about her. The Lord will not only make a wall of fire about her, but He will Himself be such a wall; for the Lord is a consuming fire to His enemies and the enemies of His children. Jerusalem will be a great city because the Lord Himself will be the glory in the midst of the city. His temple, His altar, shall be set up and attended there, and His institutions observed, and there shall the blessings of His presence and favor be, which will be the glory in the midst of them and will make them truly admirable in the eyes of all about them. The people will honor the Lord and He will put honor upon them. 

Those that have the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for their God have Him for their glory; those that have Him in the midst of them have glory in the midst of them. The people and places that have the Lord in their midst have Him for a wall of fire round about them. Jerusalem became a very flourishing city, beyond expectation, considering how long it laid in ruin. 

One would have thought that Cyrus’s proclamation, which gave liberty to the captive Jews, would have brought them all back to their homeland, as when Pharaoh gave them permission to leave Egypt and their house of bondage, about 50,000 left Babylon. The greater part of the captives stayed in Babylon. The land of their captivity was to most of them the land of their birth and they had taken root there, some perhaps had gotten estates and business. They did not think they could better themselves by returning to their own land. They had no great affection to their own land, and considered the difficulties they would encounter if they returned to Judah and Jerusalem beyond what they cared to experience. 

This refusal to return to Judah and Jerusalem preceded from a distrust of the power and promise of God, a love of ease and worldly wealth, and indifference to the religion of their country and to the God of Israel Himself. They expressed their attitude toward the Lord and their homeland in their rash and adverse comments about the Lord. This attitude had a bad effect upon the people. They could not sing Psalm 137 because they were so far from preferring Lord and the land that was their joy before the captivity. They preferred what joy they could find in the land of captivity. This resulted in another proclamation issued by the God of Israel, strictly charging and commanding all His freeborn subjects to speedily return into their own land and render themselves to the work of rebuilding the temple and Jerusalem. 

This was the proper thing to do. If the Lord will rebuild Jerusalem for them and their comfort, they must come and inhabit it for Him and His glory, and not continue living in Babylon. The promises and privileges with which the Lord has blessed us should motivate us, whatever it cost us, to join ourselves to them. 

The Lord tells the captives His scattering them was in wrath, and they must take this invitation to return to their homeland as a sign of the Lord’s willingness to be reconciled to them. They rejected the invitation so the Lord tells them to deliver themselves, flee from the oppressor in the best way they can. When the Lord proclaims deliverance to the captives, which He has caused to be available to all who are in captivity we should “deliver ourselves…Loose ourselves from the bands of our necks” (Isaiah 52:2), resolve, “sin shall not have dominion over us.” 

It was discouraging to those who remained in Babylon to hear of the difficulties and oppositions that their brethren met when they returned to Judah and Jerusalem, but there is good news. The Lord of hosts will judge the nations that have plundered Israel, after the glorious beginning of their deliverance for He is the finisher of that work. He will lift up his mighty hand against those who have plundered Israel and lay His heavy hand upon them. He will “bruise them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9). This passage shows how easily God can subdue and humble the oppressors with the turn of his hand, but it is the shaking His hand over them and the work is done. The oppressors will be slaves to those whom they had enslaved, and plundered by those whom they had plundered. 

In Esther’s time this was fulfilled, when the Jews ruled “over those that hated them (Esther 9:1) and often in the time of the Maccabees. The promise is further fulfilled in Christ’s victory over our spiritual enemies, His, “spoiling principalities and powers and making a show of them openly (Colossians 2:15). Christ will reckon with all that are the enemies of the church and eventually will make them “His footstool” (Psalm 110:1; Revelation 3:9). What Christ will do for His church shall be proof of the Lord’s tender care of it and affection to it. 

“He that touches you touches the apple of His eye” is a high expression of the Lord’s love to his people. By His resentment of the injuries done to them show how dear they are to Him, how He is concerned about their welfare and takes what is done against them as a personal insult.

The Jews that had returned were in distress and danger, their enemies in the neighborhood were spiteful against them, their friends that remained in Babylon were cool towards them, shy of them, and declined coming in to their assistance; yet they are to sing and rejoice even in tribulation. Those that have recovered their purity, and integrity, and spiritual liberty, though they have not yet recovered their outward prosperity, have reason to sing and rejoice to give glory to God.  

If their brethren in Babylon will not come to them, those of other nations shall, and shall replenish Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. “Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become” God’s people. Then God will dwell in their midst, and they will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Christ to them. 

The Jewish nation, after the captivity, multiplied by the accession of proselytes to it, naturalized, and was entitled to all the privileges of native Israelites, and perhaps they were equal in number; and therefore Paul mentions it as an honor to him that many Jews did not have. It was strange that this joining of many nations to the Lord should be so great an offence to the Jews, as we find it was in the apostles’ times. There had been one law, so should there be one gospel for whatever nation a person may come from, when they join themselves to the Lord. When they join themselves to the Lord, they become as dear to the Lord, as Israel had been. 

The Lord will own those for His people who with purpose of heart join themselves to Him; and, when many do so, we ought to look upon them, not with a jealous eye, but with a joyful one. Angels rejoice, and therefore so should the daughter of Zion. Those to whom the Lord comes have reason to rejoice, for He will be to them their chief joy. The Lord will come, not to make them a visit only, but to reside with them and preside over them. Those who have the Lord dwelling in their midst have a divine power with them no matter where they may go. In the incarnation of Christ, He that promises to dwell among them is that Lord whom the Lord of hosts has sent. He came and dwelt in the midst of the Jewish nation. He is the eternal Word that in the flesh dwelt among men. This was the great honor reserved for Israel. 

Verse twelve – “The Lord will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.” 

Canaan shall be a holy land again, not polluted by sin as it had been formerly, not profaned by the enemies as it had been of late. Judah shall be in this holy land, shall inhabit it, and enjoy the comfort of it, and no longer be lost and scattered in Babylon. Judah shall be the Lord’s portion; He will delight in, and be dear to Him. The Lord will inherit Judah as His portion, will claim His interest, and recover the possession out of the hands of those that has invaded His right. He will protect His people and govern them as a man does his inheritance, and will be at home among them. He will choose Jerusalem again, as He had chosen it formerly, to put His name there. He will renew and confirm the choice.  

The daughter of Zion must sing, but all flesh must be silent because the Lord has for the relief of his people raised up out of His holy habitation as a man out of sleep (Psalm 44:23; 78:65), or as a man entering with resolution upon a business that he will go through with. Heaven is His holy habitation above. All flesh is to be silent because the Lord is about to do something unusual, unexpected, and very surprising. He is going to plead His people’s cause, which had long seemed neglected. 

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